By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 10:35 PM
Federal agents raided the Tennessee headquarters of a security contractor involved in Afghanistan and Iraq on Wednesday on warrants that officials said were related to alleged violations of defense-related export controls.
The contractor, EOD Technology Inc., provides security and other services for the State and Defense departments. It was selected in late September to take over security for the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul.
One federal official said the alleged offenses fell under a law known as International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which governs the export and import of certain defense-related items. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, would not specify the items in question but said the case involved exports to Iraq.
Reached by telephone Thursday, an EODT receptionist said that senior officials were all in a meeting and were unavailable for comment. On Wednesday, a company statement said that "this event came as a complete surprise to us. We are a responsibly run company, and adhere to the highest ethical standards. We are unaware of anything that could have triggered this event."
The raid, directed by the U.S. attorney for eastern Tennessee, included agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service. Court documents related to the action were sealed and law enforcement officials said they would make no public comment on what they described as an ongoing investigation begun more than a year ago by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
EODT was cited in an October report issued by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for concerns about Afghan guards it had hired that "have been involved in activities at odds with U.S. interests in the region," including providing information to Iran. In its response to the committee, the company said that all its employees had either been recommended or vetted by the U.S. military.
The company is also the subject of a lawsuit filed in October by a Kuwait-based subcontractor who alleges that armed EODT employees broke into its compound in Kabul, threatened personnel there, and stole contract goods.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, many of the company's contracts relate to "point security" - providing guards outside military forward operating bases and construction projects. Over the past several months, it has won Defense Department contracts to provide security at bases in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
Selection as one of eight security companies eligible to bid on task orders under the State Department's Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract - and its winning bid to provide security for the Kabul Embassy - lifted EODT into the big leagues of security contracting.
A State Department official said "we did not know" that EODT was under federal investigation when the selection was made. While lists of companies who have been "debarred" from contract competition are reviewed before awards are made, the official said, "there is no register of companies that are under investigation."
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that "we're reaching out to the federal agency involved" in the case "to obtain more information."
Every five years, the State Department sets a target amount for what it will cost to protect its installations abroad and selects companies eligible to bid on individual task orders. In its previous two iterations, the worldwide security contract granted eligibility to only a handful of companies, including Dyncorp International, Triple Canopy and Blackwater, now known as Xe Services.
When selecting companies for the current five-year contract, completed in September, "we wanted a greater range to choose from" and "qualified more companies than in the past," including EODT, the State Department official said. Costs under the contract have also ballooned, with an increased U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan and the anticipated withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq at the end of next year. The current contract sets a cap of $10 billion for all task orders until its expiration in 2015.
Founded by two retired Marine sergeants in 1987, EODT focused its operations for many years on munitions management, including the clearance of ordnance, hazardous materials and chemical-warfare material. Like many similar small firms, it moved into the mushrooming area of private security contracting with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the expansion of operations in Afghanistan.